Pierre Chastain

Updated
06-17-08


Chastain Coat of ArmsIn 1696, a Huguenot physician and his family escaped to Switzerland from France, where the Huguenots were experiencing severe persecution because of their religious beliefs. Some four years later, this family was sailing up the James River to help found a new town in the British colony of Virginia.

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The Huguenots
Manakintown, Virginia
Pierre Chastain
Pierre Chastain Videos
The Brothers of Chastain Central
Pierre Chastain's Will
Significant Sources


Background and Biography

The Huguenots

Pierre's Grave StoneThe name of the Huguenot physician was Pierre Chastain, and he is the father of most Chastains, Chasteens, Chesteens, Chastines, and probably Shasteens in America, including James Edward Chastain and all of his descendants. Who was this man who is so important to us all? And what the heck is a Huguenot?

The religious issues began in Germany 180 years before Pierre fled France. A Catholic priest named Martin Luther published an opinion against certain Church practices of the day, and within weeks a heated controversy spread across Europe with some Church leaders denouncing Luther as a heretic and other Church leaders defending him as a mighty leader against false doctrine and practices that had crept into the Church. In fact, though Luther did not intend it, the Church split apart, with Catholics on one side and Protestants on the other.

Many of the Protestants were known as Lutherans because of Luther's strong leadership, but others were more influenced by a second great Protestant leader named John Calvin. Calvin's followers were known by different names such as Reformed or Presbyterian. In England they were the Pilgrims and Puritans, and in France they were called Huguenots. The Protestant movement began to grow rapidly in France, and the Catholic leaders fought against them with everything they had. A particularly horrible initiative was the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of August 24, 1572 when 10,000 Huguenots were attacked and killed.

A new day dawned for the French Huguenots in 1598 when King Henry IV of France determined to recognize and protect both Catholics and Huguenots. He issued a law called the Edict of Nantes, and it brought a time of peace and toleration for the Huguenots during Henry's reign. However, the kings who came after Henry began increasingly to persecute the Huguenots until King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and Protestantism was made illegal. Over the next few years almost half a million Huguenots fled France to escape the persecution, and some of them found new lives in the British colonies of the Americas. Among the Huguenots' sons are: Paul Revere, Henry D. Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and James Edward Chastain.

Manakintown, Virginia

Pierre Chastain was born in 1659 near the village of Charost in central France. His parents were Estienne and Jeanne (Laurent) Chastain. The Chastain family had fled to this area from the city of Bourges at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572. After King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Pierre, his wife Susanne (Renaud), and their five children fled France completely and were in Switzerland by 1696. From there they went to Holland, and after that to England where Pierre helped gather a group of Huguenots to colonize Virginia.

On July 12, 1700, after a voyage of almost three months, the London ship Mary and Ann sailed into the mouth of the James River near the Jamestown settlement in the Virginia Colony. Manakintown Anglican ChurchOn board were Pierre, his family, and probable relative, Estienne Chastain.

They did not remain at Jamestown, but continued up the river to the 10,000 acre site chosen for a new settlement. In doing so, they passed completely through what one day would be Richmond, down the James River east of the Huguenot site. The new Huguenot settlement was called Manakintown. Other Huguenots arrived in September.

As a group, the Huguenots were among the most educated, cultured, and skilled people of Europe. When Louis XIV drove many of them out of France with his intolerance and persecution, the loss of so many highly productive citizens severely hurt the country. Those Huguenots who settled in the British Americas were solid contributors to the developing colonies. Pierre was a medical doctor, and also served as one of the original 12 vestrymen of the Manakintown Anglican Church which was founded in 1700 and still exists today. A photo of the 1895 church building is seen at right.

The Huguenots were brought to Virginia by Britain to produce wine, to introduce silk culture, and to determine whether the soil was suitable for growing rice. So, in addition to being a doctor and a civic leader, Pierre was a farmer.

Pierre Chastain

Pierre Chastain Home The time of arrival in the new land was not a good one. Because it was so late in the year, the colonists were unable to grow crops before the onset of cold weather, and some did not survive the harsh winter. Among the losses were Susanne Chastain and some of the Chastain children. By the next year 3 of the 5 children had died. Before long, Pierre married a second wife, Anne Soblet, grandmother to the Brothers of Chastain Central and most of the Chastain lines known today. Anne was the daughter of Abraham and Susanne Soblet who were also Huguenot immigrants. Our progenitor, Peter, Jr., was born to Pierre and Anne about 1707. After Anne died in 1723, Pierre married his third wife, Magdelaine Trabue, but they had no children.

In 1728, Pierre was about 69 years old. On October 3, being sick and weak, he made his will. The will was probated November 20 of the same year, so Pierre died sometime between those two dates. At the time of his death, he had 3 sons and 4 daughters surviving. In the will, Peter, Jr., received 111 acres of land from his father. Pierre was buried on his own land, and on June 8, 2008 descendant Aneeta Morton and her husband Bob Morton determined the GPS coordinates to be N37, 34 minutes, 38.22 seconds; W77, 42 minutes, 8.82 seconds. Thanks Bob and Aneeta!

Descendants of Pierre with variations of the name Chastain descend from one of his three sons who survived to adulthood and produced children: Jean, from his first wife Susanne Renaud, or Peter, Jr. or Rene from his second wife Anne Soblet. This website is primarily about these descendants. However, for the story of the Pierre's female descendants, see Chastain Daughters.

Pierre Chastain Corn CribRemarkably, several structures built by Pierre Chastain are still standing. His home is a two story wooden structure with a detatched kitchen (see photo above). At least in some pre-electric homes, the kitchens were detatched for two reasons: (1) to prevent overheating the home in warmer months, and (2) to prevent brurning down the house! A well was located just in front of the kitchen. Convenient! Today, there is a brick structure built into the back of the house, we believe in the early 1800s, long after Pierre's death. It now serves as the main part of the home. Another structure from Pierre Chastain is his corn crib (photo to right), a quaint and sturdy log structure that stands solid today.

Today, there are an estimated 5,000 Chastain households in the United States. Most of them are thought to descend from Pierre who arrived at Manakintown in 1700. For more information on Pierre Chastain and his descendants, visit other pages of this website and the website of the Pierre Chastain Family Association. The most definitive genalogical treatment of Pierre's descendants is Pierre Chastain and His Descendants, three volumes, 1995-2002.

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Pierre Chastain Videos



To the right is a video of Pierre Chastain's home place. Below are videos of his corn crib and his gravesite. These were shot by the Brothers of Chastain Central at the 2007 Pierre Chastain Family Reunion in Manakintown, Virginia. If the images are not correctly positioned in the vidoe screens, refreshing the page should correct the problem.

Pierre Chastain's Home Place

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Pierre Chastain's Corn Crib

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Pierre Chastain's Grave Site

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The Brothers of Chastain Central

The Brothers of Chastain Central are ninth generation from Pierre, and their descent from him is as follows:

  1. Pierre 1659-1728 and Anne Soblet
  2. Peter, Jr. 1707- ? (approximate) and Mildred Archer?
  3. John "Shilling Bell" 1743-1805 (approximate) and Mary O'Bryan
  4. Elijah 1776-1853 and Anna Middleton
  5. Edward 1806-1867 and Sarah Sheldon
  6. William Howell (Cobb) 1851-1923 and Clarissa Dodd
  7. Silas Cannon 1880-1967 and Lillian S. Bates
  8. Robert Earl 1927- and L. Movaline Borden

See more at Eleven Generations.

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Pierre Chastain's Will

The will of Pierre Chastain's is taken from a trascript in Avilla Farnesworth-Milligan's Chastain Kith and Kin, 1981. A photocopy of the original will in long hand is also shown in her book. The text below is corrected slightly from the transcript by the photo copy.

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN, I Peter Chastaine of the County of Goochland and Parish of King William being sick and weak but of a sound mind and memory (blessed by God) do make this my last will and Testament in manner following--

First and principally I give my Soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it hoping through ye merrits of my blessed Saviour to receive a Joyfull resurrection and as to what worldly Estate it hath pleased God to bless me with I dispose of in the manner following.

I give and devise unto my Son John Chastaine and to his Heirs for ever one Tract of Land lying between John Lavillane and Jacob Ominies containg by Estimation ninty Acres - it being the Land where my said Son lives.

I give and Devise unto my Son Peter Chastaine and to his Heirs for ever the tract of Land wheron I live it being One Hundred and Eleven Acres and is bounded on ye lower side by ye Gleabland and the upper side by ye land of Susanna Kerner and Glode Gory.

I give and Devise unto my Son Rene Chastaine and to his Heirs for Ever one tract of Land containing three Hundred Seventy Nine Acres lying on Jones' Creek it being the Land wheron Wm Bottom lives.

I give and Devise unto my Daughters Judith Susanna Mary Elizabeth and Magdalin and thier Hiers for Ever one Tract of Land containing by Estimation Five Hundred Seventy Four Acres lying on the lower Mankin Creek to be Equally Divided between them and their Hiers for Ever my will is that my Daughter Judith to have the lower part it being where she now lives -- Susanna to Joyne to her Mary to Joyne to Susanna Elizabeth to Joyne Mary and Magdaline to Joyne Elizabeth and if Either of them die before they come of Age or Marry then the Land belonging to them that die shall divide between my other Daughters that Joyne her. I give and bequeath all of the rest of my Estate to be Equally Divided between my Wife Magdalin my three Sons John, Peter, and Rene, and my five daughters, Judith, Susanna, Mary, Elizabeth, and Magdalin, to them and to their Heirs for Ever and I do hereby constitute and appoint my two Sons John Chastaine and Peter Chastaine to be Executors of this my last Will and Testament and I do hereby Revoke all other wills by me made. In Witness thereof I have hereunto set my hand and Seal this 3rd day of Octo. 1728.

Signed Sealed published
and declared to be his last
Will & Testament in presence
of
Thomas Randolph
Daniel Guerrant
Wm. B. Bryant (his mark)

At a Court continued and held for Goochland County the 20th day of November 1728 This will was proved by the oaths of Thomas Randolph and Daniel Guerrant Junr. and was thereupon addmitted to record.
TEST. HENRY WOOD CLCUR

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Significant Sources

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